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The Pretty Skin Diet



Sep 12, 2010
The Pretty Skin Diet
Top Vegetable: Romaine Lettuce
"Good nutrition is a fundamental building block of healthy skin," says Leslie Baumann, M.D., a Miami Beach dermatologist. Ready to take the inside-out approach to loving your skin for life? Say hello to your new grocery list.

Why You'll Glow: Six leaves provide more than 100 percent of your DV of vitamin A, which revitalizes skin by increasing cell turnover. The mineral potassium in romaine "gives skin a refreshing boost of nutrients and oxygen by improving circulation," says Lisa Drayer, R.D., author of The Beauty Diet. Health bonus: That same serving of romaine contains 45 percent of the DV of vitamin K, which a recent study shows activates a protein that supports vascular health—making a future with bulging leg veins less likely.

Runner-up: Tomatoes

Why You'll Glow: Eating red helps keep skin from turning red. Volunteers who consumed 5 tablespoons of highin-lycopene tomato paste daily for 3 months had nearly 25 percent more protection against sunburn in one study. Even better, skin had more collagen, which prevents sagging. Another reason to toss an extra tomato into your salad: German scientists report that higher skin levels of this antioxidant correlate to fewer fine lines and furrows. Health Bonus: Research suggests that lycopene may also lower your chances of heart disease. In one study, women with the highest levels of it had a 34 percent reduced risk.

Top Fruit: Strawberries
Why You'll Glow: A cup has up to 130 percent of the DV of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that boosts production of collagen fibers that help keep skin smooth and firm. More C may mean fewer fine lines, too: Women with lower intakes were likelier to have dry, wrinkled skin. Early research also shows that ellagic acid, an antioxidant abundant in strawberries, protects the elastic fibers that keep skin from sagging. Sweet! Health Bonus: Strawberries may lower your risk of cancer by inhibiting the development of malignant cancer cells. In one study, people eating the most strawberries were three times less likely to develop the disease.

Runner-up: Apples

Why You'll Glow: Quercetin, an antioxidant in the peel of many varieties, provides hefty protection from the "burning" UVB rays that trigger skin cancer. A few offering the biggest dose: Monroe, Cortland, and Golden Delicious. The next time you plan to spend time in the sun, pick one of them to start your day (of course, you still need to wear sunscreen). Health Bonus: Eating two or more apples a week for one year reduced the risk of dying from heart disease by 15 percent in one study of 34,000 healthy post-menopausal women. Whatever variety you choose, be sure to eat the peel, the source of nearly all the antioxidants.

Top Protein: Soy
Why You'll Glow: Fine wrinkles and skin firmness improved after women in their late 30s and early 40s ate foods like tempeh that contain the soy isoflavone known as aglycone, found one study. Volunteers consumed an amount of aglycone comparable to 3 ounces of tempeh a day for 12 weeks. Health Bonus: Adding soy to your diet may reduce your risk of developing endometrial and ovarian cancers and diabetes and prevent a recurrence of breast cancer, finds new research. The best sources: whole foods. Try substituting edamame for any vegetable and tempeh or tofu for meat and poultry in stir-fries and soups.

Runner-up: Eggs

Why You'll Glow: Lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants found in eggs, more than quadrupled protection against the UV damage that leads to lines, brown spots, and cancer in one study on women. Skin was also markedly softer, firmer, and better hydrated. Health bonus: Eating just one egg a day significantly increases blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin (but not cholesterol),which may stave off macular degeneration by protecting the retina from light damage, finds a study in the Journal of Nutrition.

Top Nut: Almonds
Why You'll Glow: "Eating a handful of almonds every day boosts levels of vitamin E, one of the most important antioxidants for skin health," says Baumann. You'll get a surge in moisture, too—a boon for those prone to dryness. Health Bonus: Though nuts are high in calories, women who ate them at least twice a week were less likely to gain weight than those who rarely did, in a new study of more than 50,000 women.

Runner-up: Walnuts

Why You'll Glow: These nuts are storehouses of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that's a key component of the lubricating layer that keeps skin moist and supple. A half-ounce serving of walnuts provides 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of ALA. Health Bonus: Eating walnuts at dinner may deliver better shut-eye. Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center discovered that walnuts contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

Top Fat: Cocoa Made with Dark Chocolate
Why You'll Glow: Women in one study positively glowed after drinking a half cup, thanks to a significant increase in circulation that lasted two hours. But a daily cocoa habit may rejuvenate your complexion even more. Women who drank a half cup of cocoa high in flavonoids (as is dark chocolate) every day for 12 weeks in another study had significantly softer, smoother, and better hydrated skin. Try Nestle Hot Cocoa Dark Chocolate. Health Bonus: An 8-ounce cup of cocoa improved blood flow to the brain for two hours in British research. Besides better functioning on complex tasks, participants showed more brain activity in MRI scans—an indication of enhanced brain function that may reduce the risk of dementia.

Runner-up: Extra virgin olive oil

Why You'll Glow: This healthy fat contains essential fatty acids that help skin resist UV damage, finds a Lancet Oncology study. EFAs are also part of the cell membranes that help hold in moisture. The body can't synthesize EFAs, so consume about 1 tablespoon of olive oil daily to keep skin supple. Health Bonus: Recent research suggests that hydroxytyrosol, a component in olive oil, lowers cholesterol and helps prevent obesity and diabetes by revving the energy centers in your cells. Using it at meals also warded off the next round of hunger pains in one study, so you're less likely to snack.